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Listening to The Times

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Can newspapers do radio? They have demonstrated in the past that they can’t do TV, expensively discovering that it’s a lot harder than it looks.

Editors and hacks are reminded that whatever is wrong with the BBC, there’s a lot of skill within that organisation and that broadcasting requires plenty of it.

The Times this week kicked off its bid to take on Radio 4, pledging to make its radio station “essential listening”. Times Radio will bring the “stories of the day to life with warmth, wit and expertise”.

Well, very best of luck. There’s been some internal grouching that The Times has rather overpaid for the journalistic talent is has hired for the radio, but if that is true, good for the overpaid talent.

How will Times Radio make money? Probably, it won’t.

There are no ads, but there could be sponsorship of individual programmes. But its function from a business point of view is to market the paper and website.

The maths looks like this (this is industry chit-chat not official numbers):

The launch cost was £3m. If they can convince 10,000 listeners to pay £300 a year for a Times subscription then it will pay for itself.

Put like that, it sounds straightforward, though one sceptic said if it is that simple, why not invest £30 million and pick up 100,000 new subscribers.

Why not invest £300 million and book a direct flight to the moon…

Still, to its credit, the wider company is investing in proper journalism. A tip of the hat to anyone willing to do that.

We should hope it works. And if it doesn’t, no one can say they didn’t try.

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